written by: Kara Jackman
Musicians. Always musicians. It never failed she always fell for them. She stood, smoking a cigarette, waiting for the Pathfinder to come into sight. The Fall wind blew through her hair as she looked over at the chapel nearby and smirked to herself, shook her head. There is no God. Her mind raced. She was worried about her closest relative, her Aunt, sick with complications from Cancer, her job because she was hardly showing up, her boyfriend, not to mention the oral infection which left her with a missing tooth and, of course, the ever-present depression that would not let up.
"Damn, it, where the fuck is he?," she muttered to the sewer drain. She checks her cell phone. Nothing.
Having to tolerate the space between her two ears was just too much. Luckily, the sickeningly sweet excitement and physical hum throughout her body, quieted it. The nicotine didn't hurt either.
Another five minutes go by and she thinks about just going home. She's hungry and has been at work all day. Facing her Aunt is too difficult, though. Such a strong, kind woman taken down by Cancer. It is completely unfair. Before she can take a step to head to the garage, the Pathfinder pulls up in front of the chapel. She gets in.
Punk blares through the speakers, the smell of stale marijuana, body odor and cigarettes fills her nostrils. She kicks empty coffee cups and fast food wrappers aside and pulls the door closed.
"Hey, how's your Aunt?" he says.
"Not great," brushing the topic aside. He doesn't need to know. "Where are we headed?"
"I got to stop by my mom's house and get a few things. Then we can head over to the Attic and have some fun."
"Alright," she laughs knowingly.
He smiles, puts the car in gear and pulls away.
Every time she did this, she said it would be the last. Hell, every time she talked to him she said she would never speak to him again. Something always kept pulling her back to him. The conversations were always good, politics, atheism, music and their own individual pasts. He had a decent looking face, a bad-boy past that included jail time and a consistent record of petty theft. No ambitions. No job. And, most importantly, no qualms about giving oral sex. He rarely showered, unless it stood between him and a blowjob. He wasn't the kind to "bring home to Mom." So why was she in this car, driving toward the highway, further and further away from where she should be: seeking comfort and safety.
Her stomach especially wanted to know.
Fiddling with the radio tuning dial he asks, "What is our local BBC station?"
"Hmm, it's either 99.9 or AM1010, I think. Why what's going on?" she asked.
"I'm just following up on something I was talking about online. A few friends were discussing China. I would like to hear what the BBC has to say."
He spent his days on social networking sites, arguing with people about everything from UFO's to the Bush administration. Today, they must have been discussing the economic boom in China.
"Yeah, the fucking U.S. media is too bias. They just want to hear the sound of their own voices. God, knows China's taking over the world."
"Fuck yeah," she said convincingly, but not really caring.
Finally, arriving at the home. He gets out. She always stays in the car. She has never been invited inside. The first time he made the trip with her, it was awkward. Sitting in the car, alone, her thoughts raced even more. She tried to focus her attention on her surroundings, looking at the small houses, the tightly-packed working class neighborhood. This was not her world. She came from an upper, middle class town of manicured lawns and large homes.
Today, she ignored the neighborhood and rummaged through her bag for food. Half a granola bar, a Jolly Rancher and a mint. She ate and checked email on her cell phone.
He surprised her when he opened the door to the car. Mail and other papers in hand, he was ready to go.
"I checked to see if my friend next door had some pot, but he didn't. Maybe I can score at the attic."
"Ok," she replied.
The Attic was a practice space for local musicians and bands. He practiced there many times. She had never been inside because there was never any reason. Every time she went there with him the two stayed in the car. Carefully tucked away behind dumpsters and industrial equipment the two would have sex in the back seat of the Pathfinder. This would be a break in the usual routine. She just wanted to get down to business, fuck, escape the pain inside for a bit and go home.
The two drove down the street to the Attic listening to the sounds of the BBC news announcer prattling on about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As they approached the industrial park, that sweet tuning fork-like vibration throughout her body came back to her.
He parked the car by the side of the building.
"I'll be right back." he said opening the driver's side door and shutting the car off. He went inside the non-descript, whitewashed building.
Again, she sat in the car alone. She opened the window, lit a cigarette. Inhaled. She wondered how long this was going to take. Her thoughts intruded again. How could her Aunt, the amazing woman that raised her all this time, be sick? Her Aunt put everyone else before herself. How could this happen to someone so kind? As she opened the car door to put the cigarette out on the ground, he came out of the building.
"They have weed. I want to go in and jam with them, too. Lenny is in there and I haven't seen him in a long time. Man, it's good to see him."
She frowned, "I'm nervous about going in. I can't smoke weed it makes me fucking paranoid. I don't want to go."
"It will be fine," he said. "Just come up for a little bit and then we'll go...you know." he smirked showing a dimple.
"Okay." She relented. The dimple always got her.
In she went, right behind him. The building was a converted warehouse. Practice rooms were on each floor, flanked by two sets of staircase on each side of the building. She climbed the one flight of stairs, while staring through the threads to the ground below. Other bands were practicing on various floors. The sound echoed off the exposed metal stairs and doors.
She entered the room. The room held two couches, recording equipment and a space for a drum kit and a few guitar stands. The other men were adjusting guitars and cords. After she sat down, one of the others asked, "Hey, baby, you like the blues?"
"'Course," she sputtered nervously. She sat down on the couch, pressed herself firmly against the armrest. She wanted to disappear, to not take up any space on this couch, in this room.
Four of them played for a while. He played bass, trying feverishly to keep up. Then a fifth man entered with two brown paper bags. He offered bottles of wine coolers to the others and then to her. She took it. Liquid escape would have to get her through this moment, even if it was less than 5 percent alcohol.
They stopped playing. She watched everyone talk for a while. Soon everyone sat down. It was time to smoke. Which hopefully meant she would be out of this room soon.
He sat next to her. She felt he was nervous, too. A man on the left rolled a joint, lit it and passed it around. It went to one person, then the next and the next around the room. She took it and passed it to him. The joint went around again. Good this was almost over, as she finished the end of her wine cooler.
He got up and went for a smoke in the hallway, leaving her alone in the room with the strange men. They were talking about taking their act to Reno, NV and hoping to make it there. She sat in silence.
He entered the room again, asked if she was ready to go and the two exited the room. He said goodbye to those he knew. He knew few of them. He used them all. He used her, too. She used him in return.
She walked back downstairs and got into the Pathfinder. He relit his cigarette and got in the car. He pulled the car around back, next to a front-end loader.
"I was so nervous," she confessed, "they seem like a great bunch of guys, though" she sputtered cautiously.
"Yeah, though a bit misguided" he said.
He touched her thigh. She touched his.
He kissed her, the anxiety disappeared, and that tuning-fork sensation returned. The attention he gave her filled a void, deep in her chest cavity that reached her sad soul. He moved to the back seat. She joined him, removing clothes as she crawled between the seats.
Heavy breathing fogged the windows, while they fucked. It was crude and passionless. She did not come; he did. She just wanted to be wanted.
Her phone rang. She did not pick up. It rang again. She looked at the screen. It was Steve, her boyfriend. She'd have to call him later.
"Shit." she said aloud, not realizing it.
"What's wrong?" he said.
"Oh, ah, my Aunt just called. I have to get home. The nurse has left for the day."
"Okay, I'll drop you back at work. I just want to get a coffee first."
"Cool," she tries to mentally settle back down as she gets dressed again. What kind of monster has she become, she thinks?
He pulls out of the industrial park and puts the BBC back on the radio. He goes for his coffee. He talks about the news. She, though, preoccupied, keeps up her end of the conversation.
She feels better when she sees the familar street lights, businesses and buildings around her place of work. He drops her off across the street from the Chapel.
She gets out.
He says, "That was fun. I'll be online later. You?"
"Yeah, as soon as I take care of things at home."
He pulls away.
She vows to never do this with him again.
She lights her cigarette. She should call her boyfriend back. She should call her Aunt. She should not fuck random guys in industrial parks. She should....she should....she should. Her mind spins.
She finishes the cigarette, looks at the Chapel and doesn't smirk this time. She looks, curious, looking for a sign. Nothing happens. She's scared by what she just did and does not know why that has not prevented her from continuing to do it. Fear has always been a powerful motivator in her life. Christ, she never learned to ride a bike because she was so afraid of her frustrated father, his hands on the handlebars pushing her at lightening speed up the hill, upset that she could not ride. She shakes her head at the memory, looks down. Lost. Defeated. A few steps away is a bar. She goes in, asks the bartender for a PBR and two fingers of whiskey, and heads to the bathroom.
She looks at herself in the dusky, smeared mirror and sees the scared, little girl inside. The 8-year-old that disappointed her father because she would never learn to ride a bike. She doesn't know what is wrong. She doesn't know how to ask for help, or to whom to go to for this help. Her Aunt is unavailable. She does not want to be a burden, again, like she was when she was a child.
There is no one.
At the bar, she sipped the stale beer, cooling the flames from the shot of whiskey. She paid the barkeep and headed out, onto the street. She stood across from the chapel again. Lighting a cigarette she looked at the building. All stone, poured concrete at its base, gilded edges and eaves, stained glass windows, backlit by lights that showcased its pillars at night. She exhaled a plume of smoke and gritted her teeth, in a standoff with the building. It could have been the alcohol or the desperation that moved her. She found herself walking across the street, and into the chapel.
The last time she had been inside a church was for her mother's funeral two years ago. She remembers the blur of family members wearing black, incense, white clothes on the altar, sad faces, and a mixture of voices singing, prayers, spoken by all, echoing in her ears. Today was different. The chapel was quiet and still. Though she felt like a fraud inhabiting this sacred space, something felt right about it. She wasn't the badass she wanted everyone to think she was, she was a child without a mother. She wept for the first time in two years. The cries came in great sobs and her breath uncontrolled gave way to gasps. Thankfully no one was around. Just like that old saying went, she wanted the world to stop so she could get off.
She managed to pull herself together, wipe the tears and snot from her face, and leave the quiet chapel for the noisy sidewalk. Across the street, her car was still in the parking garage. She got in. She felt as confined in the car, as she was in the prison she created through her own actions. The disgust of what she had become could not be scrubbed off in the hottest shower. Every decision she made, every turn she took was always a quick fix for a much larger problem.
Her work has appeared in a number of regional, Massachusetts newspapers, non-profit newsletters, and local sports magazines. Her interests are many and varied thanks to her parents' commitment to artistic immersion. Her four years spent at the College of the Holy Cross did not hurt either. She blogs about music, fitness and self-improvement.
Kara resides in a suburb just outside the city of Boston.